Sidelining families, shutting down governors – the Southern Health way #JusticeforLB
Tim Smart, the interim Chair at Southern Health, cancels a governor meeting at very short notice in May (you wouldn’t know this because any reference to the meeting has been removed from the Southern Health Governors Page on their website – candour, what candour?). The meeting was due to discuss and debate resolutions that included the Governors having no confidence in the CEO.
The meeting went ahead anyway as a public meeting, with the costs crowdsourced and footed by the public. Four governors, Arthur Monks, John Green, Peter Bell and Richard Mandunya attended, to meet and listen to families.
Something Tim Smart chose not to do then, or at any stage during his reviewing process.
Tim Smart promised the governors legal advice, which we understand still hasn’t happened. He also said the meeting was postponed and that he would meet with families while conducting his review.
We’ve not been able to identify a single family given an opportunity to meet Tim Smart, as promised, prior to the day that he ‘announced’ he’d be taking no action to remove any Board members.
You can read Richard’s statement on behalf of all families here. It starts:
Following the announcements of the future of Southern Health we, the patients, relatives of those that have died and others that have suffered at the hands of Southern Health would like to say the following:
- We are extremely shocked that those who have sat in judgement on this matter would allow Katrina Percy to continue in her role as Chief Executive. We believe it reflects badly on them and their judgement. It is beyond belief given the clear evidence available and a long succession of failures that have come to light.
Those of you who saw the media coverage would remember a rather insistent Mr Smart saying his review was complete and there was nothing to see here. Except Alistair Burt, the Minister then responsible for Learning Disability and Mental Health, was very clear with journalists that this was not the end of things. Since then Burt has resigned his position, and Theresa May has moved mental health to Jeremy Hunt’s portfolio and learning disability to an under secretary of state, David Mowat. No doubt this is yet more reason why Southern Health will fall between the cracks.
A governor meeting took place at Southern Health on Tuesday (26 July). This was the first time the governors had met since Tim Smart had announced that no Board members would lose their jobs over the farcical performance at Southern Health. You can listen to the whole meeting on SoundCloud here:
We just wanted to highlight three sections.
The first, is a discussion that starts at about 15:40 when Arthur Monks (AM), one of the governors, tries to ask Tim Smart (TS), the Chair, a question (not unreasonable behaviour in a meeting after all).
AM: Could I ask a question on that?
TS: I’m in the middle of reading what I’ve written if you don’t mind, Arthur. Of course when I’ve finished I’d be very happy.
AS: I thought you’d paused between two sections?
TS: I took breath. Um, so the principle role of the Council of Governors is to hold the Board to account for the performance of the Trust and with particular regard to the quality of care provided by the Trust….
Hang on a second here. This is the Chair telling a governor off, like a naughty school boy, when he is, rather ironically, trying to engage in the issues at hand and hold the Board to account.
The meeting cancelled in May was exactly the same. Promises of legal advice were made, that still haven’t happened. Meanwhile Tim Smart has bulldozed ahead making his decisions about performance at the Trust, without engaging families or the governors elected to represent them.
Next up is the discussion Arthur tried to raise earlier. At about 17:35.
AM: Thanks. You said that you’d considered various sources of data in your review, could you just tell us what sources of data these were?
TS: [pause] Yeh, they are itemised in the annex of the paper that I circulated on the 30th of June [this report is not publicly available].
AM: OK, well will you forgive me, I don’t recall that. In particular did you study the Mazars report and the Holder report?
AS: OK. On the day that you met with families in Winchester we had a conference call where we listened to your summary of the discussions with the families; I didn’t say much in the discussion you might recall, afterwards I did pick up some first hand reports of people who were at that meeting, and it was a slightly different version to what we heard from you, if you don’t mind me saying. It wasn’t quite so rose-tinted shall we say.
In particular, later in the evening the BBC stopped Mr Burt outside the meeting, and asked him a few direct questions about Katrina, which the press always want to do, but that aside the point I wanted to mention was, and this was something that you didn’t tell us in the conference call, was that Burt said that ‘this was by no means over’, those were more or less his exact words ‘this is not over yet, there’s more discussion to be had’. Of course unfortunately, he’s now resigned. So, what exactly did he mean? You were with him so I guess you can fill us in. What did he mean by this is not over yet?
TS: What I think I said in the urgh conference call, and what is in fact an accurate urgh recollection of what happened in the meeting, there was, being straight forward about it, there was support for the proposals for considering the future of the services provided by Southern Health, but there was urgh a great deal of emotion, urgh understandable emotion, with regard to the continued employment of Katrina Percy. Umm, and, what I committed to do with the Minister, was to reflect upon feedback, and report back to him when I returned from my holiday. I returned from my holiday last Wednesday, by which time he was no longer a part of the government. Umm, as I said, I umm, urgh, am, I will urgh offer to report back to the Secretary of State, because I believe that he has assumed the portfolio that was Mr Burt’s portfolio.
AM: So can we record an action from this that we will in due course get a proper report about what Burt actually meant in his comment that this is not over yet, there’s more discussion to be had, because it clearly wasn’t closed, which is the way it was implied in the conference call that we had, that everything was fine, that there was a press release and that was the end of the road, the decision was made and there was no more to discuss.
TS: [interrupting] What I said to Mr Burt, and what I have said repeatedly since, urgh is that I will consider, urgh, that I am considering all of the feedback that I have received and that my intention was to discuss that with Mr Burt upon my return from holiday, so to be clear, it is clear that the matter is not closed. Umm, and I’m sorry that you took that interpretation, I didn’t say it was, nor did he, and as I’ve now said for the fourth time and I don’t intend to say it again, I will offer to give that feedback and consider the next causes of action, to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, when parliament is no longer in recess.
AM: Thank you.
If the governors are meant to hold the Board to account, how are they expected to do that when they are given misinformation, or partial information? When they are told that the fault is their own for taking the wrong ‘interpretation’ – the very same interpretation that anyone watching the news would have taken, given Tim Smart’s words that day.
Why did Tim Smart tell Arthur Monks and the Council of Governors that he’d read the Mazars report and tell My Life My Choice that he hadn’t? Is he deliberately causing confusion, or does he not actually remember what he’s said to one person before speaking to the next?
Why was Tim Smart having to reflect on families feedback, after he had concluded his review, and made his decisions? Why on earth weren’t families a crucial partner within the review process? This exclusion of families, and ignoring of their concerns, was one of the criticisms of the Mazars review.
How on earth can the governors reach a point of genuine discussion, debate and challenge when they are interrupted and closed down, and I imagine intimidated from raising any points. This is not the hallowed culture of candour, and freedom to speak up, that the NHS is meant to aspire to.
The third extract happens much later in the meeting at 1hr 55mins, again Arthur perseveres.
TS: OK, umm, do you, is it urgent or can I move on.
AM: Is this the governor question session? If it is I’ve got a question.
TS: It is the governor question session, yes.
AM: That’s convenient, right. I wanted to talk about governors, we’ve lost quite a few over the last few months. A couple of points I wanted to raise, in all the companies I’ve been involved in, when staff left I did an exit interview personally, always very powerful, you get a bit of a knee jerk reaction sometimes if people want to settle old scores but very often you do get some valuable information as to why they’ve left your company, and I think governors should do exit interviews, not with anyone here, sat in this room, but with maybe CQC or NHS England, I don’t know, somewhere further up the pile, there should be an opportunity for governors to give an exit interview, and for their experience to be captured. So that’s the first point, and maybe Anna can come back with some words of wisdom on that when you’ve researched it later.
TS: [interrupting] Does that require governors not to write to the BBC?
AM: Chair, people write to the BBC when they’re desperate. When they’re being ignored and no-one is listening to them, that’s what happens.
So, the next point I wanted to come onto was John Green, who has become a very good friend of mine. John and I started on the same day, about 4.5years ago as governors, and although I thought he was a bit off the wall to start with, I quickly realised that actually this was a guy who had serious understanding and great depth of knowledge, particularly in quality management, Total Quality Management and issues like that, as I’d also done in fact, so we worked quite closely to try and push the Trust towards using Total Quality Management. Failed miserably I think, but we did try. It’s a shame that John left and so what I would like to include in the minutes is our thanks to John Green for his huge efforts, that he’s put in to trying to help this Trust, without quoting from anything he has said in his official resignation letter I know that basically he’s just written it off as a waste of time, frankly, that’s why he’s not bothering to come here any more. So, but I think that we should put on record that we appreciate the efforts that John made, and anyone in the room that’s thinking that they’re glad to see the back of him I would say that you’re part of the problem.
TS: Thank you, I think we should on record say thank you to all members of the Council of Governors, whether past or present, as volunteers you perform a really valuable service.
At this point Councillor Joy, from Hampshire CC jumps in to second what Arthur said about John Green’s commitment, knowledge and challenge. The conversation then moves on.
In that extract you have a governor raising two incredibly valuable points, providing his thinking and reflections, alongside some challenge. What happens, the Chair shuts down his first point by interrupting with a snide comment, and shuts down his second by invalidating the point he makes by extending the thanks to a bigger group of people. Can you imagine any other scenario where someone leaves, someone offers their thanks and the boss jumps in and says no, we should thank anyone who works here or has ever worked here?! What is going on?
At the moment Southern Health has 9 public governors and 6 vacancies; it has 4 staff governors and 1 vacancy; and 4 appointed governors and 2 vacancies. So it has 17 governors and 9 vacancies. Anyone who was interested in standing for election only need listen to the recordings to see what a waste of their time it is.
All of this performance of accountability is utterly pointless. Southern Health agreed an action plan with NHS Improvement that they have failed to meet. The interim chair appears to make meaningless promises, close down discussion and is nothing short of a bully if you listen to his interactions with governors and members of the public.
How much more of this must we, the public, endure? We’ll end this post with the ending of the statement Richard West made on behalf of families and patients at Southern Health when Tim Smart announced no action (or didn’t announce, promised he’d have a think on his holiday):
Sometimes in life it is difficult to understand why certain courses of action are taken or not taken. We cannot understand why this incredulous decision has been made to allow Katrina Percy to remain in her post.
We have not given up and we are not going to go away. Instead we have been energised by this unjust decision to continue our fight for the people that now have no voice.
We’re not going away.